Yann Clairay’s Premiering with a Pole and a Podium

Yann Clairay’s Premiering with a Pole and a Podium

15.04.2009: Yann Clairay has taken his career into a new phase by joining the Luc Alphand Aventures team. With co-pilots Patrice Goueslard and Luc Alphand, Yann drove a Corvette C6.R to 2nd place in the Catalunya 1000 kilometre race after

1st round, Catalunya 1000 km, Barcelona (Spain), April 4-5 2009

Yann Clairay has taken his career into a new phase by joining the Luc Alphand Aventures team. With co-pilots Patrice Goueslard and Luc Alphand, Yann drove a Corvette C6.R to 2nd place in the Catalunya 1000 kilometre race after flirting with victory. Yann's pole position ensured that the team remained just one point behind the race winners in the championship standings.

Yann arrived in Barcelona with the rudiments of GT racing already in his baggage. In 2003 he got his first drive in the Spa 24-hour race, coming 3rd in the GT1 class at the wheel of a Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper. 2005 saw him drive a Viper again, this time in the 1000km of Silverstone Le Mans Series race. Still in endurance racing but this time in the sports prototype category, he was on the podium at the 2005 edition of the Nürburgring 1000km race, taking 2nd place in the LMP2 category, before taking part in the opening races of the 2006 season with a Courage-Ford. He got his first taste of Le Mans 24 hours racing driving the same car. Unfortunately, a tyre failure going into the Indianapolis turn saw him spin off at high speed and retire.

The Le Mans 24 hour race is on the menu again for Yann this season. To mark his return he has chosen to drive for Luc Alphand Aventures. With seven finishes in seven LM24 starts, this is one of the leading private LMGT1 teams, and the reigning Le Mans Series champions. Although only four GT1 cars made the trip to Barcelona for the opening round of the Le Mans Series, there was no shortage of quality on display with, in particular, a Saleen-Ford S7R entered by two times LMS champions Larbre Compétition, and an IPB Spartak Lamborghini Murcielago.

Yann was fastest during open practice, but the Lamborghini put in a fine turn of speed in the second session and stamped its mark during qualifying. "Our team manager Philippe Poincloux said the Lambo was always going to be fastest over a single lap, because we are still in the development phase with our Corvette with its new Dunlop tyres," explained Yann. "So he wanted me to make sure I was second fastest, knowing that in race conditions our consistency might count."

After the scrutineering the Corvette was upgraded to the top LM GT1 spot because the Lamborghini's air box was adjudged to be not within the rules. So Luc Alphand Aventures bagged their first point. But they knew it wasn't going to be as easy to pick up ten more in the race.

In the race the Lamborghini had to battle its way through the LM GT2 pack from the back, and it even suffered a collision in the 2nd hour. In Corvette No. 72 both Patrice and Yann put in good stints, and the team was brilliant in its management of pit stops. So much so that the Luc Alphand Aventures trio held a two-lap lead when former Dakar rally winner and World Cup Ski champion Luc Alphand took over at the wheel. Bad luck struck just before the 3-hour mark when Luc got stuck in the gravel pit for six minutes after a braking mishap. The lead changed hands and the Lamborghini held on to its 2-lap lead all the way to the chequered flag.

Thus it was onto the second rung of the podium that Yann and his team-mates climbed, pocketing 8 championship points along the way. That made it 10 points to 9 in this round - the narrowest of margins! "We were in contention for victory, that's the main thing," said Yann after the race. "I'd like to thank the whole team and all my sponsors for sticking with me during what has been a difficult winter." The second round of Le Mans Series will take place at Spa-Francorchamps next May 10.

 Romain Didier / future racing commm- also photo

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15.04.2009 / MaP

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